The Department of Immigration & Border Protection (DIBP) has indicated that upcoming changes to the partner visa program will include requiring sponsors to lodge and be approved for sponsorship before their partners can lodge a partner visa application and increasing the time required on provisional partner visas from 2 years to 3 years. It is expected that the sponsor application will attract an additional application fee.

The changes to the partner visa program have not been formally announced and no date has been given for implementation of the new planned changes, and it is unknown what the financial ramifications of the changes may be. DIBP indicated that they currently have approximately 88,000 partner visas pending in the onshore pipeline, and partner visa application times for first and second stage partner visa applications have increased dramatically over the last 12 months with the implementation of additional character requirements for sponsors.

Grant rates for partner visas are noted at 81% for subclass 820 (compared to 84% last year), 75% for subclass 801 (compared to 78% last year) and 92% for subclass 100. Current schedule 3 affected cases are at 650 compared to 750 last year. The top countries of citizenship for applicants are China, Philippines and Vietnam.

DIBP also noted that when Natural Justice letters are issued to applicants under section 56 of the Migration Act 1958 and an applicant makes a Freedom of Information request to get a copy of their file from DIBP, DIBP is not required to wait for the FOI request to be completed before making a decision on the partner visa. This is of concern to some applicants and agents as the time to process FOI requests has increased substantially over the last 12 months and it can now take several months for FOI requests to be processed by DIBP.